To the Editor:
As the mayor of New Glasgow for the past eight years, I would like to provide some important facts to the community related to our town, its operations and finances.
New Glasgow is the third largest town in Nova Scotia with a population density of 963 people living per square km and this is the highest population density in Nova Scotia outside of Halifax. It is reasonable to compare New Glasgow with other municipalities of similar size such as Amherst, Bridgewater and Truro but it is also necessary to understand there are varied service levels, infrastructure assets and programs offered within each municipality. It is also important to note the role of New Glasgow as a commercial, recreational and cultural centre with many regional assets, events and facilities. Our community infrastructure such as roads, trails and sidewalks service not only New Glasgow residents, but the larger business community and many community organizations.
New Glasgow has experienced an increase in population over the last two Canada Census and it is the only municipality in Pictou County that has experienced any growth in population. Our current population stands at 9,562 and as a service centre, New Glasgow services approximately 50,000 people daily and 100,000 on a frequent basis. Traffic counts on East River Road alone are 23,000 vehicles per day and this goes up to 27,000 per day in the summer.
The residential tax rate has remained consistent at $1.82 and it has not increased since 2005. User fees have been introduced to ensure single-dwelling homes are not subsidizing multi-unit dwellings for solid waste costs.
New Glasgow has had an operating surplus every year since 2010, following the repayment of a $1.1 million pension deficit to the Atlantic Police Association Pension Plan for the New Glasgow Regional Police Service.
The town’s departments operate within council approved budgets which reflect the priorities, policies and operational standards set and approved by council based on the town’s established service levels. Year end financial audits are conducted by independent credited auditors every year and the results have been solid and positive. New Glasgow also has a strong ability to borrow funds and repay its borrowings based on its financial performance.
The town manages close to $60 million in capital assets.
Council has key strategies and priority areas that are determined from comprehensive feedback and input from residents and businesses. These priorities include investing in infrastructure, facilitating commercial development, supporting active healthy living options, supporting the creative economy, environmental stewardship, encouraging and facilitating inclusion and diversity and ensuring health and safety. New Glasgow’s vision is supported in its budget decisions.
The town has completed several large infrastructure projects by leveraging substantial provincial and federal government funding, which reduced the amount of debt incurred to the town. The Downtown Revitalization program, several storm sewer separation projects, widening of East River Road, the New Glasgow Farmers Market buildings and the LED street light installation are all examples.
The town purchased and owns the only aerial ladder fire truck within Pictou County and it is used throughout Pictou County under the existing mutual aid agreement. New Glasgow invests significant dollars and human resources in its emergency management services as we have the only fire station that is manned 24 hours a day, seven days a week with unionized staff.
New Glasgow has invested in recreational and cultural facilities such as Glasgow Square Theatre, the marina, six playgrounds, eight recreational fields, seven parks, two tennis courts, two basketball courts, three groomed walking trails and three community centres. These investments are important as the town is committed to having the amenities required for a growing community and New Glasgow is also one of the first designated age-friendly communities within Nova Scotia.
The town provides significant support for several regional organizations such as the Pictou County Women’s Centre, Roots for Youth, Pictou County Gymnastics Club, Tearmann House and Summer Street Industries through a tax exemption initiative. It is proud to support the regional assets within Pictou County such as the Pioneer Track Facility and the Sobey Indoor Soccer Complex both located in Stellarton and the Pictou County Wellness Centre in the County, which are all facilities recognized by major regional employers as critical to their employee recruitment and retention.
The New Glasgow Water Utility provides quality drinking water which meets and exceeds provincial and federal drinking water standards to our residents, along with selling water to parts of the Municipality of the County of Pictou, the entire Town of Westville and parts of the Town of Trenton. The water utility has also leveraged the Building Canada Fund to complete major projects such as the current Water Treatment Facility expansion and the replacement of large sections of the transmission line. The most recent government funding announcement further reduces the amount of debt to be incurred and also reduces the impact of debt payments on the water rates charged to residents. Quality drinking water is a vital resource for any community as is strong infrastructure maintenance and development.
During my time as mayor, I have been very proud of New Glasgow’s several recognitions such as the Nova Scotia Lieutenant Governor’s Community Spirit Award, the Nova Scotia Model Volunteer Community Award, the Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia Sustainable Tourism Award along with several national and provincial Communities in Bloom Awards, to name a few.
New Glasgow continues to support regional events that are also regional economic generators such as the Johnny Miles Running Event Weekend, the New Glasgow Jubilee, Art at Night, the 2015 Nova Scotia 55+ Games, the 2016 Provincial Silver Economy Summit, the New Glasgow Farmers Market special events and the upcoming Nova Scotia Recreation Conference, as just a few examples.
New Glasgow has established progressive advisory committees such as the UNESCO Race Relations and Anti-Discrimination Committee and supports organizations such as Safe Harbour, the Pictou County Multicultural Association and the Pictou County Municipal Alcohol project.
New Glasgow is the regional service centre for Northern Nova Scotia and has invested in economic development by ensuring there is available serviced commercial land ready for future investment opportunities. The town has also played an active role with Nova Scotia Business Inc. in securing Web.com as a major new employer to our region.
I am proud of my community, I am proud of the work council has achieved and I am proud of the hard work that staff completes on behalf of council and our valued citizens.
Mayor Barrie MacMillan